Teresopolis: Brazil are in pole position to qualify for the pre-quarter finals from Group A but in the wake of a 0-0 draw with Mexico that ended a 10-game winning streak, the players admit they still have not hit anything like top gear.
The host nation won their opener against Croatia 3-1 and then were held by a tough Mexico side on Tuesday.
They are at the top of the group with four points, and play their final game against Cameroon on Monday.
The draw was their first in 17 games, going back to before a Confederations Cup triumph last year. Their 10-game winning run started last September.
The players acknowledged they need to up their game with the knockout stages not far away.
“We have to improve a few things, of course, but we do that (by) playing,” said left-back Marcelo. “Now we have a game against Cameroon to improve things.”
Centre half David Luiz said the players were still adjusting to a more competitive level after the Confederations Cup and a year of friendlies. As host nation, Brazil qualified automatically for the 2014 World Cup.
“We know that we need to play better football… We have the belief that we can grow as a unit and we also know what we’re up against,” Luiz said.
“When you compare the Confederations Cup with the World Cup, it’s not the same, all the teams are very prepared for the World Cup. The level today is very high.”
Marcelo said Brazil’s fine performance at the Confederations Cup, when they won all five games and handed world and European champions Spain their heaviest competitive defeat in almost 40 years, had enabled their opponents to prepare.
“Many teams have studied us… So it’s harder now,” he said. “We know we have to do what Felipao (coach Luiz Felipe Scolari) tells us but that’s the World Cup, each game is harder than the one before.”
Brazil’s first team, though, have not trained as a unit since the draw with Mexico till Friday, prompting concerns over the lack of urgency in a side that were disappointing in their opening two World Cup games.
Scolari led a technical training session on Friday, at which players practised drills as separate defensive and attacking units.
The squad had a day off after the scoreless draw in Fortaleza and the first team were spared training on Thursday because of heavy rain. (Reuters)